CHICAGO -- In the 2018 CSP Outlook Survey of c-store retailers, only a small percentage considered on-demand fueling services as a serious, long-term challenge to the channel. And Brannon Thompson, who grew up in the oil and gas business and is a co-founder of a mobile fueling service, understands.
“A lot of it has to do with them wanting to sit back and really see where the market is heading, how will cities and states be receptive to it from a regulation standpoint, with safety,” he told CSP Fuels. “And the retail fuel market in the United States is a huge market—they may have the mentality that if it’s not broken, why fix it?”
But Thompson, one of the four co-founders of Houston-based GasMob, believes there is an opportunity to provide fueling to consumers and businesses in a way that improves upon the current model. They, along with several of the startups that are popping up across the United States, are harnessing mobile technology and the redefinition of convenience to grab some of the approximately $41 billion in retail fuel sales. Read on for more about GasMob and five other mobile fueling services to watch.
The origins: GasMob was founded in 2017 by two sets of brothers and friends—Adam and Brad Cooper and Brannon and Mason Thompson. The New York City-based Coopers bring venture capital and financing experience, while the Houston-based Thompsons come from a family with oil industry ties.
“Right now in Manhattan, there are maybe one or two gas stations right now and everything is closing down,” Brad Cooper told CSP Fuels. “If you have a car in the city and you need gas, you really need to get to Jersey to fill up and go on about your business. It’s something Adam had in the back of his head for a while.”
Late last year, GasMob supplied fuel to the city of Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, during the cleaning and rebuilding process. It officially started as service to consumers about three months ago in Houston and a month ago in Miami. In Houston, that includes Parkway’s Greenway Plaza, one of the area’s largest office campuses with more than 30,000 parked vehicles during the week.
The hook: GasMob points to its safety credentials and lack of delivery fees to help it stand out. There have been concerns in the past from regulators about how these on-demand fueling services operate, and current regulations don't exactly fit the mobile-fueling model. GasMob worked with the Houston Fire Marshal Office to get permitting for its service, educating officials on the fueling process, safety protocol and training for employees, and providing demonstrations. “GasMob and mobile fueling as a whole—it’s a disruptor of the industry, of course,” Brannon Thompson told CSP Fuels. “And it’s a new innovative technology and service and logistics, all wrapped into one. It takes time for people to wrap their head around the concept."
The footprint: GasMob plans to build out in the Miami and Houston markets through the remainder of 2018, and then examine expansion into other markets it considers a good fit for the service, including Dallas and Austin, Texas; Atlanta; and Denver.
Photograph courtesy of GasMob
The origins: Miami-based Wahii was created by Alejandro Granado, the former chairman, president and CEO of CITGO Petroleum Corp. from 2007 to 2013. He was inspired to create the service, which specializes in coordinating fuel for boats and generators, after dealing with the inconvenience of an empty fuel tank at the marina.
The hook: Wahii’s specialty is fueling boats, although the company does plan to expand into heating oil and gasoline for vehicles. And unlike many mobile fueling services, Wahii does not do the actual fueling; instead, its app helps connect customers to suppliers. Through the Wahii app, boaters request delivery of gallons or a fill-up of marine fuel—either ethanol-free REC-90 gasoline or off-road low-sulfur diesel. The user provides location details for the delivery, whether it’s a storage tank, generator or the boat itself, and a preferred day and time for the delivery. The Wahii app then matches the user with nearby available distributors, along with their fuel pricing information and any delivery fees.
The footprint: Wahii is connecting boaters with 20 fuel distributors in four Florida counties—Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach. It plans to expand next into the Northeast, connecting suppliers of heating oil with end users.
Photograph courtesy of Wahii
The origins: Founder Jorge Camaraza was inspired to create Miami-based Neighborhood Fuel by the convenient fueling service that filled up his boat at a price that was competitive to the gas station at his local marina.
The hook: Neighborhood Fuel’s model targets scale to reduce costs. This includes serving fleets such as rental-car companies, which it provides with reporting of fuel usage, to avoid the potential abuses that can come from handing out fleet cards to employees. It also partners with corporations to supply fuel to their employees parked at the office. The corporate customer provides access to its property and marketing support. The employees order and pay for their own regular or premium-grade fuel through Neighborhood Fuel’s mobile app. Customers in South Florida include cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival and hospitals such as University of Miami Health and Mount Sinai.
The footprint: Neighborhood Fuel is expanding its service area in Broward and Palm Beach counties, and it plans to grow throughout Florida, fueled by a $2 million Series A round of financing. And it has national ambitions; Camaraza believes the model could work in any city in the United States, and with alternative fuels and electric-vehicle charging.
Photograph courtesy of Neighborhood Fuel
The origins: The San Francisco-based company was founded in 2015, initially operating in Silicon Valley and, soon after, Nashville. It has since expanded into 16 markets, stretching from the San Francisco Bay Area to Washington, D.C.
The hook: Yoshi is a subscription service, or what founder Nick Alexander describes as “set it and forget it.” For $20 per month, customers can get a membership to Yoshi and receive weekly deliveries of gasoline without paying the a la carte $7 delivery fee. They also get free tire checks and fill-ups, and the ability to earn points toward future gasoline purchases and vehicle services such as car washes and detailing, wiper-blade replacement and oil changes.
ExxonMobil is an investor in Yoshi and a partner. It contributed toward $13.7 million in Series A funding, along with General Motors (GM) and other investors. As part of the partnership, Yoshi provides ExxonMobil’s Exxon or Mobil regular or Supreme Plus Synergy-branded gasoline and Mobil 1 and Mobil Super lubricants. Yoshi is working with GM to develop an offer that can be integrated into connected vehicles through its Marketplace commerce platform.
The footprint: Thanks to that round of funding, Yoshi is pushing to expand to 25 markets by the end of 2018. These currently include the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles; Atlanta; Nashville; Austin, Texas; Chicago; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.; Tampa, Fla.; Cleveland; and St. Louis.
Photograph courtesy of Yoshi
The origins: Founded in 2015, Mountain View, Calif.-based Filld was one of the first of a wave of on-demand fueling startups, with a focus on the San Francisco peninsula.
The hook: Filld offers fueling to three core markets: direct to consumer at home, direct to consumer at work and direct to business. Initially, the Filld team expected its service would be most popular with Silicon Valley executives and soccer moms. And in fact, the first customers overwhelmingly drove SUVs and minivans. But today, the most common car models that Filld fills up include the Toyota Corolla and Camry and the Honda Civic and Accord.
The footprint: Filld offers consumer and fleet fueling in the San Francisco Bay Area and most recently, Seattle. It also serves fleets in Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, B.C.
Photograph courtesy of Filld
The origins: Another among the first on-demand fueling startups, Burlingame, Calif.-based Booster Fuels Inc. began testing its service in the parking lots of major employers in the Fort Worth, Texas, area, and in nearby Collin County. The service has since expanded to the San Francisco Bay Area.
The hook: Booster provides on-demand fueling and vehicle services for consumers at corporate and university campuses and retail locations such as shopping malls, although it does not offer residential services.
In April, Booster Fuels added fleet-fueling and tire-care services to its services for customers in Dallas-Fort Worth, San Francisco and San Diego. The new offer includes delivery of regular- and premium-grade gasoline and diesel through Booster’s fleet of mini tankers operated by hazmat tanker-certified drivers. As part of the service, Booster can deliver fuel directly to a fleet during the day, evening or on weekends. It also tracks fuel consumption for fleet customers. Tire-care services include pressure check and inflation, as well as tread check and level tracking.
The footprint: Booster works with more than 300 large employers in California and Texas, including eBay, Facebook, Oracle and Cisco.
For more on c-store retailers' outlooks on disruptive forces and the future of the convenience channel, see the November issue of CSP magazine.
Photograph courtesy of Booster Fuels